Nostalgia for Japanmanifests itself through different media. Among others, the case of Taiwanesecinematography is especially appealing. In the history of Taiwanese cinema onecan distinguish different ways of presenting the Japanese colonial period. Eachof these trends is inextricably linked to the period in which it dominated. Thefirst era lied within 1950s through 1970s. After the KMT moved to Taiwan,imports of Japanese films were forbidden.
Most of the films released duringthis period had anti-Communist and pro-KMT propaganda (the majority of thelabel owned the state). However, the censorship remained in force, as a resultof which political and social issues were avoided. In those years, a lot ofbooks and films were published about the hardships of life under the Japaneseoccupation – Japan was portrayed as a cruel aggressor1. More inclusive narratives ofJapanese rule started to spread from the 1990s; there are mentions of violenceand deception of the colonial cruelty, but at the same time, some films nowalso depicted a nostalgic portrait of the remarkable figures of the Japaneseadministration, of the technical progress introduced by the colonizers, and therelationships of affections created between the two ethnic groups2.This change was obviously connected to the political and social changesundergoing in Taiwan. Taiwan’s democratization resulted in a return to theseemingly organic search for the meanings of Japanese Taiwan. Some of thesefilms depict love between Japanese and Taiwanese people, some straightforwardlycelebrate a civilizing, modernizing Japanese influence.
The most famous exampleof how film can demonstrate the complex nature of this complicated historical identityis the wildly popular 2008 Taiwanese film Cape No. 7 (Haijiao qi hao)3.This film is about those “left behind” in different ways in the history ofinterchange between Taiwan and Japan. Cape No. 7 is the second highest grossingfilm in Taiwanese history (behind only Titanic). However, it alarmed filmcritics and scholars, who saw the movie as an example of Taiwanese people’s”desire to be colonized,” as a “poisonous weed,” and as proof that “Taiwancannot escape the devil’s clutches of Japanese culture”4.The fact that some of these authors, once published online, became popular inthe PRC, provided a clear reminder of how these Taiwanese expressions of closenesswith Japan often are meant precisely to infuriate PRC nationalists who areconvinced that the “loss of Taiwan keeps today’s China from its true destiny”5. It is a sports drama set in 1930s inTaiwan and in Japan.
The plot of the film (which is based on facts) revolvesaround the story of the Taiwanese baseball team that makes its way to the Koshien.This tournament replicates the hierarchy in the Japanese Empire. Ichiro Numazakiclaims that the film looks like it was created by the Japanese for the Japaneseviewer6. KANOcan be interpreted as an attempt to answer the question about the position andrank of colonial Taiwan in imperial Japan.
2009 animated film Hatta Is Coming!!The Story of Water in the Southern Island. This film is a hagiographictreatment of Hatta Yoichi, the Japanese hydraulic engineer respected in Taiwanfor his work to design both the Jiayi-Tainan Canal and the Wushantou Dam inTainan; both of the massive and transformational projects were completed in1930. For example, “Viva Tonal”, which praises the Japanese influenceon culture in Taiwan in the form of Shojiro Kashiwano, the creator of themodern music industry in Taiwan.For Taiwan—asovereign nation with great resources but still diplomatically isolated andconstantly threatened by the rise of the PRC—Japan could represent a guide or,in any case, an image of power to which it is ideologically, politically, andsocially attached, or so these movies seem to suggest.1 2 3 4 Lin 2010:139–40, 150, 1585 6